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Posted: 2007 11-13


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The Debut of a Masterpiece

This is Joni Mitchell singing “Woodstock” less than a month after the festival, in very likely its first-ever public performance.

-- This is also very likely the first-ever filmed performance of Joni Mitchell playing anything.

-- This is from one of the lost treasures of music films, “Celebration at Big Sur” that has never been officially released in any format. About the only place it ever aired was during PBS telethons where they’d play a song or two and then ask you for money for half an hour.

-- This is shot in some of the most beautiful terrain in North America –– the Northern California coastline. The wave-crashing stretch from San Francisco south thru Monterey & Carmel to Big Sur has been home to an almost endless list of major writers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, painters and spiritual teachers. Think Jack Kerouac, Hunter Thompson, Henry Miller, Jack London, John Steinbeck, Orson Welles, and the Monterey Pop Festival.

-- That’s Joni Mitchell’s boyfriend at the time Graham Nash standing behind her, and the angelic-voiced trouble-making prankster David Crosby beside him.

-- Watch for Joni turning golden when she sings, “We are golden.” The editing is spectacular –– respectfully appropriate for this performance and subject.

-- And yeah, that’s a grand piano on a patio by a swimming pool. It’s filmed at the Esalan Institute, a multi-disciplinary spiritual awareness and health center in Big Sur that hosted a concert one weekend each summer.  And I bet this was the best one ever.  

YouTube Uploader: henhenstoll
Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Woodstock on Wikipedia
Single by Joni Mitchell
GenreFolk rock
LabelMCA MCA Records International. Catalog#: 6073 015
Writer(s)Joni Mitchell
ProducerIain Matthews
Joni Mitchell singles chronology

"Woodstock" is a song about the Woodstock Music and Art Festival of 1969.

Joni Mitchell wrote the song from what she had heard from then-boyfriend, Graham Nash, about the festival. She had not been there herself, since she was told by a manager that it would be more advantageous for her to appear on The Dick Cavett Show. She wrote this song in a hotel room in New York City, watching televised reports of the festival. "The deprivation of not being able to go provided me with an intense angle on Woodstock," she told an interviewer shortly after the event.[1] It was later released on her third album, Ladies of the Canyon in 1970, on her Shadows and Light album, and again in 1996 on her Hits album.

Mitchell's original version featured a stark and haunting arrangement - solo vocal, multi-tracked backing vocals and tremoloed Wurlitzer electric piano, all performed by Mitchell herself. All subsequent recordings featured a fuller backing band sound.

Prior to release on any album, Mitchell performed "Woodstock" at the 1969 Big Sur Folk Festival, one month after Woodstock. The solo performance can be seen in the festival concert film Celebration at Big Sur (released in 1971). The performance was an exception to Mitchell's mounting distaste for large festival gigs. [2]

The song later went on to be hits for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Matthews Southern Comfort, the latter reaching #1 on the UK singles chart for three weeks in October 1970, and the former reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Assembled Multitude's 1970 instrumental version reached #79 in the US. David Crosby, in an interview in the documentary Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind, said that Mitchell had captured the feeling and importance of the Woodstock festival better than anyone who had been there.[3]

Led Zeppelin incorporated Woodstock's lyrics and structure into live renditions of Jake Holmes' song "Dazed and Confused" between 1973 and 1975. It can be heard on the currently unreleased "Dazed and Confused" section of the video from one of the 1975 Earl's Court concerts.[citation needed]

In popular culture

A line from the chorus, "We are billion year old carbon," was used by Corey Mesler as the title of a novel about the 1960s.[4]


  1. ^ William Ruhlmann, "Joni Mitchell: From Blue to Indigo," (1995) republished in Stacey Luftig, ed., The Joni Mitchell Companion: Four Decades of Commentary New York: Schirmer Books, pp. 37-38
  2. ^ Ruhlmann, in Luftig, ed., p. 37; Phil Sutcliffe, "Joni Mitchell," (interview)Q, May, 1988, republished in Lustig, ed.,pp. 141-142.
  3. ^ Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind
  4. ^ Deusner, Steven (26 May 2006). "... With the Memphis Blues Again". Book review. PopMatters. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 

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